Talking to a long standing MEP who had served in many senior positions including that of the EP president about lobbying practices, I expected hear a rather rosy picture regarding influence of lobbyists on the decision making process in the EP. This expectation is to be kept in mind in order to put his answers in the context of our inquiry.
First of all he clearly stated that different interests regarding a policy are perfectly legitimate and that it is the core task for politicians to find compromises between the camps. In the EP the political groups are the most important level for those compromises. Because institutional factors make a large majority in the assembly necessary, a compromise between the two biggest groups is a powerful preliminary decision. Once such a compromise is reached, lobbyists have no more the opportunity to exert influence.
However, before the process reaches this stage, lobbyist and associations are an important “sounding board” to test the viability of policy proposals and political initiatives. Early information is thus of mutual benefit for MEPs and lobbyists. If a lobbyist is “good” her policy positions evolve through the process stages, following the debate in the EP/groups. Hence, the better a lobbyist knows the process stages; the higher are her chances to exert influence in the right moment. Asked if such well informed lobbyist could be capable of anticipating the eventually involving political compromise, my interview partner denied anyone outside the EP the capability. But this opinion probably reflects more the self assertion of a long standing MEP, than the reality of lobbying towards the EP.